Starting the School Year Off Right – Educational vs Medical Models of Treatment

If you’re anything like our family, the beginning of the new school year comes with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the carefree days of summer are ending, but on the other hand – maybe getting back into a routine is not so bad? The beginning of the year often means a new teacher (s) or maybe even a new school, which can be unsettling, but is also an opportunity to evaluate your child’s support plan. In this post, we’ve provided some information about the educational versus medical models of treatment to help you understand the differences and hopefully be able to find the right resources to best support your child. We know that getting the help you need can feel overwhelming and confusing at times and when in doubt, contact us for an evaluation and we’re happy to help guide you.

Educational Model

  • School-based therapy uses an educational model that focuses on academic performance and is governed by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
  • Typically, the support offered will be focused on tasks that are meant to help your child succeed in the classroom and the goals are based on achieving academic milestones.
  • The service is provided in the least restrictive setting for the student. This could be within a general education room, a special education classroom or a designated therapy room and can be one on one or with a group.
  • There is usually a treatment team which consist of parents, teachers, therapists and counselors working together to ensure that the child is set up for success. Our Galvin therapists often work within the private school setting to help round out that treatment team.
  • Each school and district will have varying levels of support and standards for qualifying students, so it’s important to set up a meeting early on to determine what is/is not available within your district or private school. This article has some helpful information about special education accessibility and eligibility. 

Medical Model

  • In the medical model of treatment, an occupational, physical, or speech therapist performs evaluations and treatments in a clinical setting after being referred by a doctor.
  • The main difference between the two models is that within the medical model, therapists attend to the whole child – helping them function and focus on activities needed for daily life – not just the things that affect them within the educational setting.
  • The team-based approach still applies within the medical model and quite often the family is also very involved in the treatment as it is encouraged that the suggested interventions continue at home and often at school as well.
  • Services are usually offered at a center, where specialized environments are created to best address the specific treatment goals.

At Galvin Therapy, we focus on creating custom treatment plans for each child which consist of complementary services that reinforce the treatment goals. For example, if a child is working with one of our speech therapists on prepositions then our speech language pathologist will make sure to emphasize and highlight the use of prepositions – ‘let’s go through the pillows and over the ball’. Often, home programs are developed to continue the skill building at home. The medical and educational models of treatment often go hand and in hand as having support within and outside the school setting is extremely beneficial. Don’t wait to seek help if you or a teacher is seeing something that’s concerning. Bottom line, the most important thing is for your child to get the support he/she needs and for you as a parent to be seeing noticeable progress and improvement. We are here as a resource at any time to discuss the best plan for your child! 


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